A friend recently asked me if I covered the subject of the use of alcohol by Christian leaders in my blog. I replied that I had not (until now). However, I had shared my thoughts on the subject with my children back in December 2009. Several years ago when my two oldest children were nearing their college graduations, I started writing what I referred to as, “One dad’s rambling thoughts on becoming an adult.” I tried to periodically address topics and share convictions on issues that we had not previously discussed. The following is what I wrote to them on the subject of drinking. I copied it and sent it to my friend as well. I also mentioned that it is a subject on which the Christian community has changed its opinion in the past generation.
Whether or not you agree with my convictions, I trust this post will challenge you to think through the issues, read the Scriptures, and develop your own convictions.
It’s time for another exciting adventure of “one dad’s rambling thoughts on becoming an adult.” This time I wanted to share some thoughts On Drinking. When __________ was here for her interview with __________, we talked briefly, but I wanted to expand on that discussion as well as share my thoughts with all of you.
Growing up, you guys were taught by us and others to avoid alcohol and drugs. You have attended schools where that was part of the contract or code of conduct. But as you all know, agreeing to a rule and/or signing a contract does not mean that people will follow it. It really comes down to living according to your convictions. As you become adults and leave academia, you will need to develop and live by your own convictions on this subject.
Rather than tell you what to do, let me explain how I developed my own convictions and practice on this issue.
I grew up in a family that was fairly legalistic in its practices. “Good Christians Don’t” was the ruling motto, and it was generally followed by “smoke, drink, or chew, or go out with girls that do.” We couldn’t play cards—Rook was OK; but Poker, Pinochle, or any game with playing cards was bad. My brother and I sat on the sidelines when the class did square dancing in elementary school P.E. Movies were evil unless they were Disney animation, though I don’t quite know how the witches in Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc., slipped under the radar. The first non-Disney movie I saw was The Sound of Music. So you can imagine what my parents thought of alcohol.
Going to __________ , the list of restricted activities was longer than it is today. All that to say, I was pretty well told what to do, but very seldom was it explained why.
While attending __________ , one of my professors was __________ of the Bible Department. Loved his classes, hated his tests. During my freshman year, I remember him telling the class to “be mature about the rules of __________ .”
One of the more helpful lectures I remember from __________ was on how to deal with gray areas. He gave us a list of six questions to ask ourselves:
- Does the Bible speak to the issue? If so, follow the instructions. If not, ask:
- Will it help me? 1 Corinthians 6:12a – “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful.”
- Will it build up the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:23b – “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
- Is it addicting? 1 Corinthians 6:12b – “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.
- Will it cause others to stumble? 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 – “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
- Does it glorify God? 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
I used those principles to develop my own convictions on the subject of drinking alcohol.
- Does the Bible speak to the issue? Sort of. The Bible condemns drunkenness, but may allow drinking.
- Will it help me? Drunkenness will certainly affect my health, driving, decision making, etc., but drinking in moderation still seems gray.
- Will it build up the body of Christ? In a social setting, drinking could help build a relationship with someone, but that seems like a stretch. On the other hand, if I’m with a non-believer, my lack of drinking could hinder building a relationship.
- Is it addicting? Drinking wine might be safe, but harder alcohol could certainly be a problem.
- Will it cause others to stumble? This is probably the key question for me. Assuming I may feel the freedom to drink, might my practice offend someone?
- Does it glorify God? If C. H. Spurgeon could say of smoking, “I smoke this stogie to the glory of God,” I suppose I could lift a glass of wine and say the same thing.
Having worked through those questions, I came to the conclusion that biblically, I feel that I have the freedom to drink in moderation. However, I choose not to. I don’t want to take the chance of offending someone who might see me. As a parent, I didn’t want to give you a double message that it was ok for me but not for you. As a pastor or leader, how would someone respond if they saw me drinking? I also don’t want to take the chance on becoming addicted. The fact that I don’t care for the smell or taste of beer makes that a non-issue, and being ambivalent about wine helps, but I make my choice primarily on the basis of convictions.
Having said that, there are occasions when mom & I have had a glass of wine or champagne, primarily to be social. At the end of the __________ , the team would celebrate with a glass of champagne. On one trip, __________ wanted to try vodka, so I had a glass with him. I didn’t get past the first sip because it tasted like paint thinner. Not that I’ve ever tried that, but it does burn all the way down. A few weeks ago, we were at the __________ for a __________ and I had a glass of wine with everyone else.
In summary, I feel the freedom to drink, but I choose not to. On the rare occasion that I do, it is a social setting with people who I feel comfortable with and don’t worry about what they may think. I also try not to pass judgment on others who don’t have my same convictions.
This might be one of those topics that would be good to discuss when we are together.
See you in a few days. Love you.